Clinton Says Adversity May Aid Vote
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 15, 1998; Page A11
NEW YORK, Sept. 14It was a day that began with policy and quickly moved on to fund-raising, "The Lion King" and pep talks to the true believers.
Surrounded by some of his most steadfast supporters, President Clinton suggested that his travails could actually benefit his party and motivate Democrats to go to the polls Nov. 3.
As evidence of his claim, which is counter to the conventional wisdom, Clinton noted the response at today's luncheon, which raised $300,000 for Democratic candidates. "The adversity of the moment, I think, has led us to this record turnout," he said. "Why? Because people made a decision and they thought they were needed and they stood up."
With his wife and Vice President Gore nearby, Clinton made another oblique reference to the sex scandal enveloping the White House and made clear he would not forget the people who have stood by him -- especially his loyal Number Two and wife, Tipper.
"There is no question that far and away, beyond anyone who has ever served in that position before, Al Gore has had more influence over more issues and done more good than any vice president in the history of the country by light years," Clinton said. "I know that I speak for Hillary when I say we thank you for your personal friendship and your support. It means more now than ever, and we'll never forget it."
Gore, for his part, led a round of applause for Hillary Rodham Clinton and said of the president: "He is my friend, he is my president, and his policies have been manifestly good for the United States of America."
At a Manhattan supper club this evening, following a warm introduction by Hillary Clinton and an extended round of applause for him, the president continued on his adversity-can-be-good theme: "Go talk big, go tell people not to be complacent," he told 400 supporters at the dinner. "Tell them not to worry about the adversity -- adversity makes people come out and show up -- witness your presence here tonight."
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew M. Cuomo, gazing at the large crowd, pronounced the evening "an outrageous success. . . . New Yorkers put their money where their mouth is. What they said loud and clear is they support the president, they support his record, they support his policies.
But in today's events, dubbed "Unity '98," there were signs tensions linger between the beleaguered president and some of his party's top congressional leaders.
House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.) and Sen. Bob Kerrey (Neb.), who heads up the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, left the luncheon before Clinton spoke; Rep. Martin Frost (Tex.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, did not attend at all.
The full day and night of fund-raising had been planned since early summer, but as Congress weighs the prospects of impeachment hearings, the party rallying took on a more urgent tone.
Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) derided those who speak of impeaching Clinton. "When a president is elected, nobody diselects him," Rangel said over cocktails with a group of donors.
He too praised Gore for his unwavering support of the president at a time when many prominent Democrats have been noticeably silent. "He is the engine that keeps our president going constantly and when the going gets tough, the tough get going," Rangel said. "Never before in recent history have Democrats had to stand up and be counted. The president has been good to us, the vice president has been good to us; now it's our chance to show how much we appreciate them."
Despite his optimism that his problems could help motivate Democratic voters, Clinton echoed a concern of Democrats before the scandal took center stage. He warned supporters that the real worry this November is complacency and a historical trend that has always worked against the party occupying the White House. The real danger, he said, is that voters will think "things are peachy-keen, I think I'll go to a movie on Tuesday. Or I'll take my kid to the day care center and I don't have time to go vote."
Noting that not once since the Civil War has the party in the White House gained congressional seats in an off-year election, Clinton predicted: "I think we're going to beat history."
Over the course of two meals, a cocktail party and a Broadway show, the Democrats raised more than $4 million that will be divided by the national party, the DCCC and the DSCC. Worried that the GOP's enormous financial advantage and Clinton scandal will cost Democrats seats in the November elections, Democrats will repeat the performance in Boston on Thursday.
At a buffet dinner at the Supper Club, Sen. Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.) urged Democrats to focus on the legislative agenda, rather than the controversy. "Some of these days it may be difficult, sometimes it may seem hard but we know where we are going and we know what we've got to do," he said. "This administration has a great responsibility to finish its agenda."
National Chairman Steve Grossman suggested that while Clinton's personal morals may have been called into question by the sex and cover-up scandal, his public values are exemplary. "You have demonstrated at least in my adult lifetime a higher commitment to the kind of moral leadership that I value in public service and public policy than any person that I have ever met," he said.
After quoting from the prophet Isaiah, he closed: "Our prayer for you today and for the first lady and for the vice president and for Tipper is that you will continue to provide the kind of moral leadership to this country that has enriched the life of virtually every citizen."
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